by Gene Greene Goodson
Note from Riverdancer (aka Gene Goodson): “Recently my husband and I
attended my cousin Mal Green's 50th wedding anniversary celebration . . .
“Mal is in many ways a brother. He is the cousin that bounced drunks
with my brother Buck ( A Boy and his Fiddle ) when they were both 15 years old.
“Mal told me to be prepared to speak on any subject of my choosing. I
suggested I tell about our fishing trip, mainly because it was already written
in preparation for submitting to USADEEPSOUTH. Mal chuckled.
“When they handed me the microphone (first handed to my husband who
said, ‘Are you kidding?’) I was in heaven. When I finished telling that story I
wanted to go right out and audition for Saturday Night Live. Here's the story.”
My cousin, Mal Green joined the Air Force immediately after graduating high school. Following his military stint (Cryptographer code,"Da-da-dit-da-diddit") he came to live with my family in 1950- something and together we enrolled as freshmen at Florida State University. I was sixteen and I think he was twenty-four.
Mal often told me I needed to shape up or I’d never attract a husband and I would die an old maid. Shaping up meant stop chopping my hair off, lose the baggy clothes, draw on my face, learn to fire a weapon, drive a jeep and fish. Still smarting from my senior year Homecoming dance when my stepfather in his red Dodge pickup truck dropped me off on the corner of Copeland and Call Streets, I set out to re-invent myself. Determined to fashion a silk purse from a hog's snout, Mal dedicated the bulk of his spare time to rescuing me from spinsterhood.
“Big Dismal,” a featured attraction in a popular wilderness hiking area in Leon County, fascinated Mal. The awesome dark-water sinkhole sat at the bottom of a drop-off of more than 85 feet. He said he and his dates spent many nights there searching for snipes. After peering over the rim into the darkness of "Big Dismal" in the daylight, Mal selected a small pond nearby for my first fishing lesson. He said he and his friend, Jess Love, frequently fished there from an abandoned rowboat parked near the shore.
You know what happened, don’t you?
The sun boiled our heads. Mosquitoes swarmed to feast. Gnats swam in our eyes and ears. Sweat poured in rivers from every pore of my body.
I had to go to the bathroom, but Lord have mercy I could not tell a B-O-Y.
Something stole bait No. 1. Bait No. 2, the biggest fish I'd handle all day, wouldn’t agree for me to spear him. And water crept around my feet. WATER?
The danged boat was leaking. I began throwing up in the water over the side. The adult in the boat remained calm, cranked the motor, and we headed for shore.
Suddenly, the back of the boat crumbled into the water, taking the motor and Mal with it! He bobbed up and down but maintained his death grip on the steering wheel, err, handle. All of the crickets stopped chirping. While Mal was busy rescuing his cherished motor, the boat and I sank lower and lower. I was so glad I learned to swim in knee-deep water in Lake Bradford – I was well prepared for my dog paddle in knee-deep pond water.
Mama was intrigued by my wet rat image, but my stepfather was livid. He knew the spinster next door, who had a telescope permanently trained on our house, would confirm his theory and notify the entire neighborhood that I had been skinny dipping with some wild Yankee. I was grounded for three weeks. I never went fishing with Mal again but he did teach me to drive his Jeep – well, sort of . . . but that’s another story.
Big Dismal is featured at the Leon County, Florida website.
Lake Bradford is a popular lake just outside Tallahassee.
G. G. Goodson writes online using the penname “RiverDancer.” She says she has no credentials other than she is a retired Corporate Director of Human Resources. She works occasionally as a Surface Mine Safety consultant. RiverDancer and her husband have lived in the panhandle of Florida all their lives.
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